Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don’t Wait For the Water

I am not a professor this week.

I am not a bride, either.

I'm not a job applicant, a credit score, or a frustrated astronaut.

This week I am a writer.

A dehydrated one. I have grown weary of my own hastily slapped-together paragraphs. I am utterly drained by student emails that totally lack capitalization and announcements that I am an inflicting some sort of massive crime against humanity because I won't accept an assignment that was due in February.

"And I must confess, I could use some rest. I can't run at this pace very long... I've got to head this boat south pretty soon. New album's old and I'm fresh out of tunes ," wrote Jimmy Buffett, who, I must point out, also wrote "I like mine with lettuce and tomatoes, Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes." You have to be careful, with Jimmy.

Five years ago I turned in my MFA thesis and ran away to Florida. My vestigial eight-year-old wanted to go watch space shuttles. She's had the run of me, pretty much, and now it's time to reacquaint myself with the big girl who wrote that thesis, wrote it in longhand for hours and hours at a long table in the college library. She wasn't half bad. I miss her. I don't know if she's still around.

So I applied for, and for some reason was granted, a writing residency in Arizona. I won't say where, exactly. I am hiding. I am hiding from my life, and from me.

The well is dry; has been for months, and please God the desert will fill it again. I haven't been to Arizona in two decades or so, but have hugged it to me all these years anyway-- the cacti, the cracked earth, the turquoise bolos. Yes, bolos. I shall wear a bolo before the week is through. Perhaps also denim in the form of a long skirt. I was a child of the ocean for a while, but I never let go of the cowgirl who wrapped a sunburned little hand around a Colorado saddlehorn. Maybe I'll find her as well. We shall see.

There's a pool where I'm staying. I was excited about that, initially. One of my fondest childhood memories is of Western visits to my great-aunt and being permitted to swim at 10 PM, since my sister and I have skin types that burst into flame in direct sunlight. But then I read the following in the community rules about the pool: "Nudity is up to you." I am not excited about the pool ANYMORE.

There is also a cat that hates me. My only contact with pets may be easily documented in the form of several goldfish skeletons currently resting in a Biscayne Avenue backyard. So any pet needing air is horrifically intimidating-- you might as well ask me to feed, clip, and spay a pegasus. And when the cat came in my room, it started wandering around, sniffing things, and I was terrified. This was not my pet. What if it started having kittens, just shooting out an entire litter of kittens right there on my thesaurus? What if I broke somebody else's cat?

So I politely asked the cat to leave and it didn't. I tried shooing, and it just shooed to the other side of the room. Finally I picked it up at arm's length to take it outside, and I guess cats don't like being picked up where I picked this one up, because when I deposited it outside my room it arched its back and glared at me and was all, "HHHHHHHHHHHHCCCCCCCCC!" I've never heard a cat hiss before. I'm thinking this was it. I found it very disturbing. I always thought hissing would be-- I don't know, hissier.

Too bad, cat. I'm taller than you, and I know how to lock the door. Perhaps you would enjoy the pool instead. I've got enough to keep me busy here.

I don't hate sand at:


college gal said...

Kudos to you MB for knowing when you need to take a break and get reacquainted with yourself. I am anxiously awaiting Drink to the Lasses Part II...

Rick said...

"Nudity is up to you" but I highly recommend it; it's really the only way to swim. If you chose to keep your suit on, that's OK too.

2xgtld said...

Go, Mary Beth! Did you ever notice how cowboys and sailors have the same eyes? They have that squint and faraway look because they're used to seeing the far distance and their own place in things. I find the desert and the ocean are both places to re-find the future. Enjoy!

2xgtld (haven't posted in a year, but still read often!)

Kristen said...

Congratulations on the fellowship, and I hope you're having a productive week out there in the great desert complete with hissing cats.

the celina(s) said...

Hey! Arizona! I'm here, too! I hate it!

I know you said you're in hiding, but there's not many places to hide in the desert if you have a writing residency. I can assume you're in one of two places. If you're down south, you should check out this bakery called Mona Lisa. They have amazing cookies. If you're more in the middlin' section of the state, there's an quirky coffee shop called the Xtreme Bean that I highly recommend.

It sounds like you actually like this spit of sand. It's fine, I suppose, if you haven't lived here your entire life.

Congratulations on the writing residency, by the way. :)

katemh said...

Congrats on the writing fellowship, and grats to JTP too for passing his exam! Enjoy the time but don't get too wacky, just in case.

Anonymous said...

Congrats MB--am proud of you for the writing residency and deft handling of the poor kitty-cat.

lemming said...

Been there with the dry well of writing - it goes in cycles. You've had the words before, and they will return.

mike, stray cat strut said...

You just need to learn how to pick cats up. You grab them by their fur on the back of the neck. Not too hard, of course.

When I moved into my house, there were a couple of stray cats who visited every now and again. It took a couple weeks, but they finally got the message that they weren't really welcome on my property. And when they bailed, a small army of mice came in to fill the void.

I want those cats back. Ship me the Arizona cat if you have to; it sounds like it has the right temperament for the job.

red pill junkie said...

Congrats on the writing residency, and take it easy with the sun: if you start seeing hissing jackalopes instead of strayed cats, it means it's time to step into the shade ;-)

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